‘Frozen’ alligators spotted sticking noses through ice to survive in Oklahoma

(David Arbour/)

Alligators in Oklahoma went into a deep freeze this week as frigid, icy temperatures plague much of the central and eastern United States.

Wildlife photographer David Arbour captured stunning photos of several alligators poking their snouts through the ice to breathe at the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area this week.

(David Arbour/ Oklahoma Department of Wildlife)

(David Arbour/ Oklahoma Department of Wildlife)

While the alligators may appear to be dead, scientists say they’re not. It’s a survival technique alligators use when the water starts to freeze.

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Adam E. Rosenblatt, a biology professor at the University of North Florida, tells Science Alert that when the alligators go under, they enter what's called "brumation"—a hibernation-like state for reptiles. Their bodies almost entirely shut down and all they need to do is breathe. Basically, the ice sticks to their snouts, locking them in place while their bodies dangle below the surface.

(David Arbour/ Oklahoma Department of Wildlife)

"They basically shut down their metabolism. They don't need to eat because they're not burning a lot of energy," Rosenblatt said. "They slow down their heart rate, their digestive system, and they just sit there and wait out the cold weather. It's a pretty amazing adaptation."

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The same thing happened in 2019 in North Carolina when gators in a 65-acre park froze with their noses sticking out of the swap and the images went viral. The park manager said the 18 American alligators thawed out within days and had no apparent injuries as a result of their deep freeze.

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